My dog is so fast…

The topic is one misconception people seem to have, in addition to the thought that speed is everything in lure-coursing. The dog may be fast in the backyard or in the ‘training’ where the pulls are 250m. But the real challenge of the 600-1000m lure coursing trial is something completely different.

How to tell the difference? In the backyard (or normal walkie), use a watch to time the actual time your dogs are running at a time. Constantly running, that is, at their full -or playfull- speed before giving in to trot. You might be surprised how little they really run, especially if you compare that to the time the dogs run in a lure-coursing trial.

How long is a trial, then? Depending on the track, at the average speed of 40km/h the normal track from 600-1000 m lasts anything from 1 minute to 1.5 minutes. On average the run craze of a dog at the back yard takes about 10-15 seconds and after that the dog is ready to go in. It may run like a lunatic, fast as lightning and all, but the real challenge is avoided.

The lactic acid threshold.

At about 100 meter point, which is about 6 seconds from the start, the dog has used the immediate energy reserves in the system and the lactic acid starts to mount into the muscles. This causes ache, stiffness and discomfort, and the dog will cease running if the reason to run is not strong enough. At the backyard the reason may be to release some tension and it’s over in the 10 seconds. In the trial it is the instinct to chase the lure, and it may not be enough to keep the dog interested after coming tired and stiff.

Each and every dog is the best in the world to it’s owner, that’s for sure. But the dog running at backyard/training/walkies is not necessarily the fastest or best in the lure-coursing trial, if it hasn’t gotten used to straining herself beyond the threshold.

Even then there may be something which causes her to quit before the trial is over. But that’s another story alltogether.

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Yet another weekend in the races

Or at least in lure coursing events: that topic was a poor rip off from Queen (A Day At The Races). Poor attempt to be funny.

Anyhow, one day working, the other having fun with dogs and owners. Sadly there are no pictures from either, as I haven’t taken any, but it’s sufficient to say that the weather was excellent on both days: not too warm nor too cold. You could tell that by looking at the dogs who were more than lively throughout the both events.

There were few things that got ‘stickied’ in my mind from the both of the events. First one is something that really bothers me still, even though I know the battle against windmills is already lost.

The dog which comes to the lure doesn’t win the trial. It’s of no use to ask ‘how can I make my dog faster’ or ‘why did the slower dog get better points’. The explanation is here. The short version for the lazy readers is as follows: the dog’s performance is rated in five categories (speed, enthusiasm, agility, endurance and intelligence), and the points of the judges are added up. Speed itself is only one fifth of the points, so a dog with enough endurance or enthusiasm wins a dog which is fast but not agile, for example.

On the other hand, if the dog has good points but is slower than the other dogs of the breed, then there is something you might do. Pulls downhill, speed exercises, short extreme speed pulls and running in swamp or deep snow come to mind. First three develop the speed itself, while the last ones build up the muscles. But there is only so much you can do with the speed actually, especially with a mature dog. Also something to consider is to lose some weight from the dog.

The other one is the comparison of points from different events. This weekend proved the point especially,  as the event I was working on Saturday had tracks which were 450m and 650m (about) in length, while our dogs ran on Sunday on a track which was around 750-825 meters long. And quite surprisingly the dogs got lower points on the longer track.

It’s the same thing with all the evaluation in numbers: the numbers tell only the information which we want to tell. The same with ranking tables and ratings: when we want to condense information to simple numbers, something gets lost in the way.

How can you compare 530 points from 650m long track to 480 points from 800m track? Especially when there are different judges and different ground on both?

No way. No way are the results comparable, and most certainly they do not tell everything about the dogs who have competed. Not even with that kind of (huge) point difference the dogs cannot be compared equally.

The points -and all point based evaluation methods- are fault in one way or another. In ranking table, is the dog which competes seven times a year better or more valuable than the dog which wins three times? In trials, is the dog which competes on a long track with certificate points worse runner than a dog which wins on a short track?

After all, the main point is healthy and loved dog. Not the prizes and recognition of the owners.

Isn’t it?

Supplementing nutrition

I wonder if wolves or african wild dogs have their own supply for electrolytes and nutritional supplements, because they are hunting in real (running for their life, in fact) and still around after several thousands of years after their emergence on Earth.

Or has this hairless descendant of monkey done something really wrong, causing the poor domesticated dog to be more or less dependant on nutritional supplements?

Or, in addition to the earlier question, is this hairless monkey doing the wrong things with their best friend and creating a situation in which the dog -whose best friend this monkey called human should be- is in fact dependant on the care…?

Just wondering. Too much care and caretaking may well be damaging in the long run.

Faster than anything

How come there are always dogs which are faster than any running dog alive and when the real event comes along those dogs are the first to give up?

It’s not mental for the dog. It’s completely physical.

It’s not enough for the general fitness of an Irish Wolfhound to have the few 15 minutes walkies in the lead and few sprints in the yard to make it run faster than anything. The few sprints in the yard or dog park is not showing how long or how fast the IW really is; it’s only showing how playfull the dog is.

In 7 seconds the dog has used up it’s immediate reserves and the first wave of exhaustion comes in. In the normal backyard the dog sprints for the few seconds and rests in a way or another for the next. In a lure-coursing event the track takes about 45 seconds, full speed running and steering.

The faster than anything dog gets exhausted, it’s muscles are sore from the lactic acid and the experience is anything but pleasant. After the trial she is put into a car to cool down and straight from the car to the finals, if lucky.

This dog will never compete again.

And hopefully so. For the well being of the dog.

To the owner of the faster than anything alive dog this may be devastating: she’s so fast at home, but not performing today. It may well be the last event the owner will ever take part into, if the owner was looking for instant gratification on the behalf of the dog’s performance. On the other hand, if the event otherwise was a success (good weather, nice buffet and nice people), the owner may take heed on the advice and dig a bit deeper into the excercise side. Take the dog out for a longer walkies, maybe jog with her from time to time (and participate half a marathon later next year… =D ).

Maybe the next time the dog is prepared -and ready- to run at full speed to the end.

Maybe after a while the dog is what the owner believed in the first place.

Faster than anything.

Popular posts

Here is the list of the most popular posts I’ve written, with some commentary. I have also activated the rating function for the posts, so please rate the posts so I can see what you think of them!

To warm up: How and why to warm up for a lure-coursing event.

To cool down: How and why to cool down from a lure-coursing trial.

Dog doesn’t need excercise, right?: All dogs are equal and require breed specific amount of excercise.

Breed specific excercise needs: More about the excercise issue.

The holy triangle for a healthy dog: It’s all about basics. And moderation. And rest, of course.

Why the dog doesn’t run?: My thoughts about issues why a dog doesn’t run in a lure-coursing event. Or race.

Heatwave and Heat is going on: some thoughts about heat, it’s effect on a dog and cooling down them in warm weather.

There are more posts I could bring up, but these are among the top 20 posts read so far. Majority of the top20 are lure-coursing event reports (especially EM-09) and contain very little real reading.

For the final thought: Expectations of the owners. Just to keep our feet on the ground with the hobby!

European Sighthound ranking initiative

There is a new initiative to have a concise sighthound ranking in Europe and the website can be found here.

While I see this as an admirable and quite ambitious initiative, for me this represents the dog owners need to excel over others. In sighthound racing this is quite normal, where the dog is mainly the tool to achievement – in greyhound racing especially.

For me the lure-coursing has a different meaning: the competition is just a side product of the main thing, to see the dogs run and do what they have been originally bred for.

The more I think of it, the competition part is what makes it difficult to enjoy the actual lure-coursing event: if you visit a lure-coursing training or an informal event the overall feel of the event is completely different from an official lure-coursing competition or event. The people are more relaxed, fun and not too confined in their own scheming (and planning the dog’s performance beforehand). However, in certain breeds of sighthounds the competition mentality is more apparent than in others and certain breeds have been created only for racing (take greyhound or whippet as an example of this).

But for Irish Wolfhound… Irish Wolfhound is a poor tool for a competitive minded people. Or a perfect one, for there is so little competition in national level that with just a few additional walkies a week you can ‘compete’ with a high level of success.

I’ve seen a question concerning this. What is a win over 3 competitors worth comparing the win over 30 or 50? My counter question is simple:

What does the dog understand about the winning or why is he celebrated one time and shunned the other after a completed trial?

Never the less, the initiative is admirable and I wish all the success to it! As long as it doesn’t become the owners’ bragging ground and/or sole basis for breeding.

The dog’s health and longevity should come first.

Always.